From the series XINJIANG: Exploring China’s new frontier
China says the stability of its far western Xinjiang region, is strategically vital to the country’s development and national security. As the main battlefield in China’s war against terrorism, the Autonomous Region issued China’s first local counter terrorism law in early August. Today in our series on Xinjiang, our reporter Han Bin visits the southern town of Seriqbuya, where deadly clashes occurred in 2013. He interviewed Uyghurs who witnessed and experienced the attacks, and are searching for the answers to extremism.
XINJIANG: Fighting terrorismChina says the stability of its far western Xinjiang region, is strategically vital to the country's development and national security. As the main battlefield in China's war against terrorism, the Autonomous Region issued China’s first local counter terrorism law in early August. Today in our series on Xinjiang, our reporter Han Bin visits the southern town of Seriqbuya, where deadly clashes occurred in 2013. He interviewed Uyghurs who witnessed and experienced the attacks, and are searching for the answers to extremism.
The town of Seriqbuya is home to some 50,000 people. Most are Uyghurs.
Havagul Abudurim was posted here, after the violent attacks of three years ago. She’s maintained a vigilance against terrorism ever since.
“My work is mainly to meet and talk with the grassroots people, especially those focus groups that could have potential threats to security, educating them to maintain stability,” Havagul said. “Young people with no jobs are our priority to talk with.”
The violence in 2013 took the lives of 15 police officers and community staff. Six of the attackers were shot dead and another eight were captured.
Extremism has cast a long shadow over Seriqbuya. It’s destroyed families, and the tragic memories remain.
Today, Havagul is paying a visit to a victim’s mother, 76-year-old Uxurhan Wali lost her 35-year-old son, who served as security staff. His name was Tayir Ehat and left behind two children.
“How I wish my son could still be living with me. I got the message that he died 3 days after the attacks,” said Wali. “I was praying for him to come home. And the waiting was so painful.”
Uxurhan says she hates violence, but nothing can bring back her son. She hopes he did not die in vain, and that Seriqbuya will enjoy peace.
Terrorism has killed hundreds in Xinjiang in recent years. China says the East Turkestan Islamic Movement is behind the unrest. Many say the reasons are complicated.
Xinjiang has been subject to frequent extremist activities over the past years. The government says those terrorist attacks do not represent any ethnic group or religion. And the fight against terrorism is not an ethnic or a religious problem, but a long-term effort to safeguard unity.
Havagul says most religious extremists are young people, usually unemployed, who have been radicalized. They include Emat Axim’s nephew, Osman Muhammet. He took part in the violence and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Osman’s uncle has no idea why his nephew got involved, and says young people need support.
“In order to resist the invasion of extreme terrorist thoughts, we have to do whatever it takes in line with the law,” said Axim. “Children should have access to education that contributes to regional stability.”
Locals say the majority of Uyghurs have been smeared by a very small number of radicals.
“A true Muslim should help maintain peace in society, and make his own contribution to the prosperity and stability of his community and town,” said Havagul.
Havagul says you can’t tell a terrorist by his or her face. So you need to get to know people. The violence has changed her life, and her views on the fight against terrorism.
Havagul says the real challenge is to keep watching. And she’ll continue to make her rounds, believing that even one woman can make a difference.